Associate Professor in Economics of Wellbeing at the Governance and Inclusive Development research programme (GID) of the AISSR.
I am a development economist with over 25 years of research experience in international development studies, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Côte d'Ivoire) and Sri Lanka. My PhD was on the Characterization of Poverty in Rural Uganda.
Currently, I am responsible for leading the following research:
As part of my international research projects, I collaborate a lot with local governors, ministries, NGOs, CSOs and other stakeholders on the ground. Besides these applied projects, I am deeply engageded in pushing the scientific and public debates on inclusive development and rethinking the economy from a broader wellbeing perspective. I have elaborated upon the basic premises of both in several international peer reviewed publications, special issues (EJDR on 'Inclusive Development', 2015; COSUST on 'Inclusive and Sustainable Development', 2017; COSUST on 'Inclusive Business', upcoming) and two recent books (The Wellbeing of Women in Entrepreneurship: A Global Perspective (Routledge, 2019) and Introduction to Gender and Wellbeing in Microeconomics (Routledge 2017) and provide guest lectures on this topic to a varied audience of scholars, NGOs, public policymakers and politicians. I am currently working on a new book on The Economics of Wellbeing.
Rethinking the Economy from Ground Up
By Nicky Pouw
In the global policy and research debates on inclusive growth and inclusive development increasing emphasis is put on the need to rethink the economy. The expiration date of the neoliberal growth model seems nearly over. False assumptions have led to false policy prescriptions, with detrimental impacts on society and nature. Instead of greater human wellbeing for all, inequality, social-economic, political and climatic risks have increased. Another great concern is that the poorest of the poor are excluded from neoliberal growth, or are at best adversely incorporated. They are not even effectively reached by development interventions.
Both from within the economics discipline and from the outside, new proposals are being put forward to rethinking the econonomy. These range from encompassing measurements of societal progress, re-orienting the economytowards human wellbeing, towards putting a price on nature, and alternative framings of the economy. From an inclusive development perspective, investments in 1. voice and empowerment, 2. social and environmental sustainability and 3. human wellbeing are paramount.
The economy is never neutral
However, these are typically juxtaposed as costly afterthoughts in neoliberal growth models. Only under the condition that there is money left, societies might show benevolent enough to invest in their fellow citizens and in nature on which they depend. Therefore I argue for rethinking the economy from the ground up, starting with redressing its basic premises. To begin with, I define the economy as a socially and politically instituted process of resource allocation, from and to economic agents. This is by far not a neutral process. Power inequities twist and turn economic processes and outcomes to the benefits of the rich and better off. The above definition of the economy creates room for integrated power analysis. Neither is the economy a closed, nor a controlable physiological system. On the contrary, the economy is embedded in nature and a socially and politically instituted process, and as such open to influences from outside. The ‘economy’ is interconnected via sub-systems of internal relations and allocation mechanisms, for example in the form of market mechanisms, reciprocity and redistribution. It consists of structures and layers, but these are temporal and context specific. Cultural values, past and future priorities, play a role in making economic decisions in the presence. Economic agents engage in (more or less) purposeful (not ‘rational’) behaviour to make economic decisions. As such, economic change is not a series of stable idiosyncratic events, but subject to emergent change, shocks and unexpected events.
10 Reasons why economics should change
Following from the above epistemological premises, I propose a list of 10 reasons why economics should change:
Once we see the economy as embedded in society, politics and nature, we can understand the complex interactions between, for example, resource use, nature and the economy, or between empowerment, social cohesion and the economy. Whether economies embark on a degenerative, environmentally unsustainable and exlusive development pathway or a regenerative, sustainable and inclusive one ultimately remains a matter of political choice.
Nicky Pouw is Associate Professor in the Governance and Inclusive Development programme at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She is a development economist with 25 years of research experience on poverty, inequality, gender, inclusive development and economics of wellbeing, notably in African economies. She is Chair of The Broker and author of multiple international peer reviewed books and articles.
Image by Sharmin Akther Amy
This is a study commissioned by SOS Children's Villages on the Social Exclusion of Vulnerable Youth and conducted by Nicky Pouw and Katie Hodgkinson at AISSR, University of Amsterdam. The study aims to understand the mechanisms behind the social exclusion and self-exclusion of vulnerable youth in four different countries: Indonesia, Guatemala, Cote d'Ivoir and the Netherlands. The study runs from 2015-2017.
Literature Review is available below.
The Research Design is available below.